Google Analytics & Compete Toolbar Not Playing Nice

    June 22, 2007

I was having a problem with Google Analytics a week or so ago and yesterday Michael Gray was having the same problem. I thought more people might end up sharing our issue with Analytics and figured posting the solution was in order.

You can probably guess the problem and solution from the title of this post. After installing the Compete toolbar as an extension for Firefox, Analytics started acting funky. I couldn’t change the dates for the reports or view the majority of things I wanted to view. Graphs wouldn’t display and clicking on one of the tabs did nothing more than highlight the tab color without displaying the requested info. The one extension seemed to break about 80% of the functionality of Analytics and made the application 100% useless.

After a couple of emails to the Analytics team they responded with the suggestion that it might be a Firefox extension causing the problem. Fortunately for me I had only installed a couple recently and was able to quickly identify the Compete Toolbar as the culprit. Still Michael is right when when he said in a comment

this should be a lesson, using programming that depends on client side code or functionality is a dangerous. You have no way of knowing what is on an end users machine, and how it will interact with your JS or AJAX application.

There really isn’t any good reason why you shouldn’t be able to use both Analytics and the toolbar. And forcing use of Analytics in IE is not a reasonable solution. You shouldn’t have to make a choice between the two. In this case the choice for me was easy since I’ll use Analytics more than the Compete toolbar, but that ease of choosing won’t always be the case with every application.

Had the problem been with the Web Developer Toolbar I’d be looking for a new stats package.

JavaScript, particularly when it’s incorporated as Ajax is a very cool thing, but it’s important to keep in mind that your application might not work for everyone and if you happen to break a popular extension your application and your site might not get the love it deserves. Most people will only know your site doesn’t work and not come back.